How Apple really turns boring tech chores into exciting key features

I once heard someone from Buzzfeed talk about how they get higher click-rates — which is their catnip — for quizzes by inserting one simple word into the title: Really.

Instead of finding out “Which Spongebob character are you?” you’re more likely to click “Which Spongebob character are you really?” The idea is it will cut through the oodles of quizzes, and makes it sound definitive.

(I got Spongebob himself, naturally. I’m glad to rule a line under the matter.)

For a long time I’ve been impressed what how Apple “on-boards” users when new features come out. There’s a narrative around them that’s simple enough that anyone can tell it, and while we’re riding on the back of the Trojan horse, we’re simultaneously training ourselves new modes of interaction.

I thought this Macworld article by Dan Moren about how Apple leverages technology to create excitement around their core features was going to lay out this idea. Instead, Moren talks about how Apple sexed-up the way we back up our computers, and so we adopted Time Machine, and so on.

There’s no question this is true, but it misses the bigger thinking that’s been on display from Apple’s product strategists of late.

So, here’s how Apple really turns their tech advances into fun features (on the iPhone, at least).

Touch ID / Apple Pay

How do you get users to not only secure their devices, but link their financial credentials to their Apple account? Give them a lightning quick way to pay for things (in countries without PayWave, at least).

3D Touch (image: The Verge)

3D Touch

Want people to get used to deep pressing into icons and menu items to expose more options? Let’s bring their photos to life. I legitimately forgot about this feature until I got my iPhone X, then was horrified to find all my photos had hidden videos being captured behind the scenes.

Animoji (image: Apple’s keynote)

Face ID

Want people to both trust and feel good about unlocking their phone with their face? How about we let them map their movements onto a freaking emoji! If you needed any more proof that Apple is using fun features like this to sell us on their new tech, they’ve just launched an ad based around animojis that is 👏 just 👏 so 👏 freaking 👏 fun.

This is a strategy that Apple has been perfecting and refining over the last few years. With new devices like the HomePod coming in 2018, it’ll be interesting to see how Apple “trains” users to interact with the new speaker.

Teaching users new modes of interaction could well succeed where other attempts have completely failed (Siri on the Mac, anyone?), but could pave the way for future developments.

Not convinced? Think of what’s holding back the Apple Watch from replacing our iPhones in our lives. The first hurdle is getting people used to making voice interactions the primary mode of interaction.

And in the HomePod’s case, exclusively.